Obituaries, June 15, 2018

McGEE
Patrick, 68, St. Mary, Newton, March 13.
ARNOLD
Donna (Hundley) Schroeder, 86, St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita, May 17.
BAADE
David Edwin, 69, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, May 17.
FRANKS
Lucille (Schiffelbein), 78, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, May 21.
KESSLER
Margaret R., 97, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, May 23.
SWANN
Barbara Ann, 83, Holy Cross, Hutchinson, May 23.
WALLACE
Delbert “Deb,” 82, Holy Name, Winfield, May 23.
WILTSE
Donna I., 79, St. Ignatius, Neodesha, May 23.
DUNCAN
Dr. Lloyd Leon, 91, Holy Name, Winfield, May 25.
BARGAS
Billy Joe, 45, St. Jude, Wichita, May 26.
BURKS
Theresa Marie (Mies), 79, Sacred Heart, Colwich, May 26.
CUMMINGS
Robert, 90, St. Cecilia, Haysville, May 26.
HEENAN
Donald Wayne “Don,” 92, St. Patrick, Parsons, May 26.
KENNEDY
Gerald Thomas, M.D., 82, St. Vincent de Paul, Andover, May 26.
MAY
James E. “Jim,” 84, St. Joseph, Conway Springs, May 26.
FLYNN
Thomas Michael “Mike,” 85, St. Patrick, Parsons, May 27.
OLIVIER
Rodney, 86, Immaculate Conception, Danville, May 27.
CROSS
Matthew J., 59, St. Vincent de Paul, Andover, May 28.
MADL
Richard L., 73, St. Francis, St. Paul, May 28.
WOLKE
Philip John, Sr., 69, St. Mary, Derby, May 28.
NGUYEN
Chat T., 96, Holy Savior, Wichita, May 29.
SANCHEZ
Kit Paul “Buster,” 67, St. Patrick, Chanute, May 29.
SPEXARTH
Cathryn D. (Blick), 101, Sacred Heart, Colwich, May 30.
COSTLEY
Mary Kathleen (Phillips), 71, Holy Name, Coffeyville, May 31.
GRANO
Frank J., 76, St. Joseph, Arma, May 31.
O’CONNOR
Marlene T., 76, Holy Cross, Hutchinson, May 31.
MENDOZA
Rebecca, 87, St. Joseph, Humboldt, June 1.
SCHAEFER
Nancy (Malone), 85, St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita, June 1.
HEIN
Justin Roman, 84, All Saints, Wichita, June 2.
SCHMIDT
Mary Ann Margaret (Roths), 91, Sacred Heart, Colwich, June 4.
KLEIN
Lawrence Walter “Larry,” 77, St. Mary, Aleppo, June 5.
RODRIGUEZ
Edith M., 92, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Newton, June 5.
TURKOT
Robert “Bob,” 73, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Wichita, June 5.
SCHOENHOFER
Verl A., 79, St. Ambrose, Erie, June 6.

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

June 24: Isaiah 49:1-6, Acts 13:22-26, Luke 1:57-66, 80
By Fr. Tom Hoisington
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist is so important a feast that there are two full sets of scripture readings for Holy Mass. One set is proclaimed at Vigil Masses on the evening before the feast day, while the other set is proclaimed on the day itself. Yet regardless of whether you attend Mass this weekend on Saturday evening or Sunday, the Gospel passage you hear will be taken from the first chapter of St. Luke’s account of the Gospel.
The Vigil’s Gospel passage comes from the beginning of Luke 1. The Gospel passage for the feast day itself comes from the end of the chapter. These two passages bookend the story of St. John’s birth. As with the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ birth, the child to be born is the focus, but not the central actor. In the Gospel passages for today’s feast, the central actor is John’s father, Zechariah. St. Luke the Evangelist here contrasts Zechariah with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Zechariah was an elderly husband, yet without children. Mary was a young betrothed virgin. Saint Gabriel appears to each of them separately, and tells each not to be afraid. The archangel announces to each that a son is to be born. Yet their responses differ profoundly.
The man persists in unbelief, while the woman believes. Mary’s final word in response to St. Gabriel’s announcement is “Fiat”: “Let it be done unto me according to your word” [Luke 1:38]. In response to Zechariah’s unbelief, St. Gabriel declares in a verse not long after the end of the Gospel passage for the Vigil Mass: “behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass” [Lk 1:20]. That “day” is narrated in the Gospel passage for Sunday.
Saint Augustine in Sunday’s Office of Readings explains that “the silence of Zechariah is nothing but the age of prophecy lying hidden, obscured, as it were, and concealed before the preaching of Christ.” Later in the same sermon, St. Augustine expounds the distinction between Jesus and his cousin: “The voice is John, but the Lord ‘in the beginning was the Word.’ John was a voice that lasted only for a time; Christ, the Word in the beginning, is eternal.”
But if the voice must decrease, so that the Word may increase, what can be said of Zechariah? he is not even a voice, but silence: the silence in which the Voice is conceived, and a silence which you as a sinner must enter.
The silence illustrated by Zechariah is born of unbelief. Every sinner is called into this silence. Most of our fallen world is a modern Babel. We are unfaithful to God’s Word, because we cannot hear it for the cacophony of the modern world. We are among those of whom the Beloved Disciple writes in the prologue to his Gospel account: “the Word came to his own, and his own people received him not” [John 1:11].
Because it’s always so in this valley of tears, God calls fallen man into silence so that there we might recognize our sins, and hear and heed God’s Word. The silence of Zechariah is what St. John of the Cross writes about: “What we need most in order to make [spiritual] progress is to be silent before this great God, with our appetites and our tongue.”
This silence is a means to man’s true end. This is the end for which God created man “in the beginning”: to share in the divine life of the Trinity in a holy and eternal silence. About this final silence, the end of all we are and do as disciples of the Word made Flesh, St. John of the Cross also speaks: “the Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul.”
St. John the Baptist was born so that the Old Testament might die. Yet such a death was meant all along in God’s providence to be fulfilled by a new life, like the grain of wheat that dies in order to bear much fruit. St. John the Baptist was born to preach the message of repentance: the need to accept ourselves as sinner, and the need to accept Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away our sins and those of the whole world.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 17: Ezekiel 17:22-24, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, Mark 4:26-34
By Fr. Tom Hoisington
These reflections mean to prepare you to hear the Scriptures at Sunday Mass. Usually this preparation involves looking at the words of scripture themselves. But today, step back and consider a general way for preparing on your own to hear the Scriptures at Sunday Mass. This way can be utilized every week of the church year.
Lectio Divina is a form of praying Sacred Scripture: not just reading Scripture, but praying it. At first glance, we might not think there’s any difference between “reading Scripture” and “praying Scripture.” However, there can be a radical difference.
Picture a dedicated atheist. This atheist sees himself as doing battle against religion. So he puts into practice one of the most basic principles of combat: “Know your enemy.”
Wanting to understand how believers think so that he can debunk their beliefs, he takes a course at a noted Christian university in order to learn all about the Bible. In his zeal, he might even earn a Ph.D. in biblical studies, and be able to quote at length from the Bible, name all the books of the Bible, and even teach others about the history and geography of the peoples and places of the Bible. But all of that knowledge would not make him a believer.
By contrast, the aim of your praying scripture is not merely knowing about scripture, but believing in the God who wrote these Scriptures for your good, listening to him speaking to you, and speaking to him in response by your words and actions.
There are several easy ways to prepare for Lectio Divina. One is to purchase a hand missal, which contains the complete set of the three-year cycle of prayers and readings that a missalette covers only for part of a year. Another way, if you’re tech-savvy, is to go to the website of the United States bishops, where you can print out the scriptures for any day in the coming months. Another way is to go to your parish church for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and during your visit use the missalette in the pew for prayerful reading of Scripture.
The first step of “praying scripture” is an act of choosing: choosing a text from scripture. Some saints in explaining Lectio Divina recommend choosing a single chapter of a book of scripture. Others recommend a single verse, while others recommend only a single phrase or even only a single word. A single verse is a good ideal. You’ll notice in many hand missals or missalettes that, at the head of each scripture passage, often in red, is a verse from that reading. That is given to help you focus your attention, and this verse can be used for the practice of Lectio Divina.
Wherever and whatever resource of scripture you use, find the Gospel passage for the coming Sunday. The other steps of Lectio Divina help one to draw spiritual fruit from one’s chosen passage or verse. As a simplified form of Lectio Divina, reflect on the coming Sunday’s Gospel passage for at least 10 minutes a day during the weekdays leading up to Sunday.
Each of these days, ask the Lord to draw your attention to one verse in particular. Not only will you grow in your love for the Word of God, but he –the divine person who is the Word—will open your heart and mind to accepting more faithfully the Word made flesh in the Holy Eucharist.

The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 10: Genesis 3:9-15, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35
By Fr. Tom Hoisington
Jesus explains today that each of us needs to carry out the will of God in order to be his brother or sister. But how can someone learn what that will of God is? Granted that your average Christian does want to carry out God’s will, how can he learn what this will is? Consider three possibilities that the average Christian might weigh.
First, the Christian might follow the simple instruction: “Do good and avoid evil.” Such counsel is straightforward, but there are two potholes to be avoided. On the one hand, how does one know what’s good in a complex moral situation? The Ten Commandments are good guides, as are the teachings in the third quarter of the Catechism, but we don’t always know how to apply these to difficult situations.
On the other hand, the simple instruction of “Do good and avoid evil” can devolve into the whole of one’s approach to morality. In a word, we might describe this pothole as “minimalism.” Often, a moral minimalist considers that he’s doing God’s will as long as he avoids evil. After all, if something’s not evil, it must be good, the minimalist reasons. Morality in this case is nothing more than avoiding whatever God shakes his finger at.
A second way of learning God’s will considers the wealth of truly good choices that the Christian has before him. The key to this way of learning God’s will is the cardinal virtue of prudence. In this case, there’s not a simple choice between good and evil. That’s presumed. But once all evil choices are rejected, the Christian still has many morally good options remaining. Amidst these many good choices, the Christian wants to exercise the virtue of prudence. Prudence helps the Christian advance in his moral life, and by that means, also in his spiritual life. Morality in this case moves us from choosing any old good action to choosing what is best, for as the best possible good, it shares most in the perfection of God’s goodness, and thereby draws us closest to God.
The third way of learning God’s will is the most demanding. This way could be summed up by the word “discernment.” In the process of discernment, the Christian listens for and to the Lord’s voice because there is more one needs to know.
Perhaps the Christian is uncertain which of several good choices is the best. Perhaps he is uncertain if he has all the underlying facts upon which to base a determination of the best choice. Perhaps he’s wondering if there are further good options not yet visible to him.
Amidst all the different reasons for discernment, the virtue of obedience is key: obedience to the voice of Jesus, and to the word he speaks. Morality in this case is founded upon a relationship with the living God, who sacrificed his own Son so that we might become, through Jesus’ self-sacrifice, his brothers and sisters.

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 3: Exodus 24:3-8, Hebrews 9:11-15, Mark 14:12-16,22-26
By Fr. Tom Hoisington
The historical event Some 50 years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, disagreements still simmer over the best way to interpret its teachings. Disagreement is found in different areas of the church’s life, such as marital morality and ecumenism. Yet nothing engenders more disagreement than the celebration of the Eucharist. Today’s feast of Corpus Christi can help us reflect upon the church’s teachings about this most blessed of the seven sacraments.
One of the more confused ideas used to interpret the council is that Holy Mass ought to be entertaining (for example, through its music or preaching). During summer vacation, if you travel far enough outside our diocese, you might stumble upon Masses animated by the principle of giving the faithful what they want.
By contrast, the church’s history shows a different approach: give the faithful what they need, and do so by giving them what God has handed down. There are two questions that have to be answered, then. First, what do the Christian faithful most need? Second, what has God handed down?
We’re not talking here about the sacraments’ inner essence, which is grace, but about their outer form, which the church has the power to change to some extent. Concerning the form of Holy Mass, what principle should shape it? What would be wrong with elements drawn from popular entertainment, which clearly draw crowds marked by outer enthusiasm?
Some seem eager for great crowds and great outer enthusiasm in churches. Yet the history of the church, both ancient and modern, shows that when the church sets the course of her mission according to numbers and outer enthusiasm, the church bears little lasting fruit for lack of roots. Consider that during the hours that Jesus was nailed to the cross, the number of his followers was few, and they had little enthusiasm for the way he had trod. Nonetheless, the church knows that she is called to preach nothing but Jesus Christ crucified [see 1 Cor 2:2].
At the heart of this preaching is self-sacrifice. If we want to know what the Christian faithful most need, then, we need to know self-sacrifice. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, when he instituted the Eucharist, reflect this central principle. “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” These words of Jesus don’t reflect a spirit of entertainment, which indulges whatever the crowd currently cries for.
But how can a principle like self-sacrifice take form within Holy Mass? Consider the example of hymn lyrics. Tally the proper nouns and pronouns in any given hymn. Are most of them first-person (I, me, mine, we, us, ours), or do most of them refer to God? Who is the focus of the hymn: man or God? A hymn that illustrates the principle of self-sacrifice sings more about God than man, and sings about man as fallen and redeemed by Jesus’ self-sacrifice on Calvary.
So if the faithful need chiefly from the form of Holy Mass a spirit of self-sacrifice, what, secondly, has God handed down to the church to foster this goal? The simplest answer is that he has given Himself, in Word and Sacrament. God’s Word and the Sacrament of Corpus Christi shape the form of Holy Mass.
The content of the Mass shapes the form of the Mass. Form follows function, and one of the functions of Mass is to form us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
If that seems a bit abstract, consider practical examples regarding the role of Scripture within Holy Mass. With a few exceptions, most consider the fact that more of the Bible is read at Mass during the year to be a positive change made after the Second Vatican Council. Yet two other modern changes distort – towards one extreme or the other – the place of Scripture within Holy Mass.
In some churches built or renovated after the Second Vatican Council, the altar and pulpit are positioned at equal distances from the sanctuary’s midpoint. This arrangement suggests that the two chief parts of Holy Mass – the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist – are of equal importance.
Yet the church throughout her history has taught that the structure of Mass – like salvation history itself – contains a dynamism. The first half of Mass prepares the faithful for the second half, as the Old Testament prepares God’s People for the New, where the Word becomes Flesh and dwells among us.
On the other hand, the modern change that gives prominence to hymns at Mass has come at the cost of the proclamation of Scripture. In the form of Mass used before the Second Vatican Council, hymns didn’t supplant the singing of the scriptural antiphons (during the entrance procession, the offertory, and the Communion procession). Each of them – antiphons and hymns – had its own place. But the modern form of Mass allows these scriptural antiphons – which may be sung either in a brief form or in an extended form like the responsorial psalm – to be omitted altogether, impoverishing the faithful by substituting the human words of hymns for the divine Word of Scripture.
What the Christian faithful most need is what they most deeply want. God has handed down to man through the church what mankind most deeply wants: self-transcendence through self-sacrifice. The church’s Sacred Liturgy inspires us, nourishes us, and fits us for self-sacrifice, and so for fitting praise to God for his own self-sacrificial love.

Obituaries, June 1, 2018

BAYER
Rose M., 100 St. Jude, Wichita, March 29.
SCHRADER
Margaret R. (Smith), 90, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, April 28.
KLEIN
Mary Louise (Stanley), 79, St. Mark, St. Mark, May 2.
BUNN
Anthony “Tony,” 2, St. Joseph, Wichita, May 6.
FORSTER
Gregory T., 62, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita, May 6.
GREENLEAF
Kathryn (Weigand), Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, May 8.
NOONE
Donna M., 87, St. Mary Cathedral, Wichita, May 9.
ALMANZA
Virginia, 93, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hutchinson, May 12.
SCHULTE
Frank G., Sr., 88, St. Joseph, Wichita, May 12.
GUMM
Clifford Vance, 70, Christ the King, Wichita, May 13.
HANSARD
Eunice “Marcella,” 70, Christ the King, Wichita, May 13.
RAMBO
William R., “Bill,” 72, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, May 13.
TEJANO
Victor B., 40, St. Mary, Newton, May 13.
ARMSTRONG
Thomas Joseph “T.J.,” 93, St. Michael, Mulvane, May 14.
ESCARENO
Moetta L., 86, Sacred Heart, Eureka, May 16.
GODDARD
Carol Ann, 73, Frontenac, May 16.
HOSFORD
Deril, 72, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, May 16.
RHUEMS
Helena Ella (Wettstein), 85, Our Lady of Lourdes, Pittsburg, May 16.
PAINE
George Medley, Jr., 85, Sacred Heart, Caney, May 17.
BUSER
William T. “Bill,” 74, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, May 18.
KRUSE
Ann Elizabeth, 85, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, May 18.
SEIDL
Hugo Francis, 79, St. Anthony, Garden Plain, May 19.
DELAMORE
James Carl “J.C.,” 13, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Wichita, May 20.
VO
Minh, 51, St. Anthony, Wichita, May 21.
OSTMEYER
Jean (Geraldine), 78, Holy Cross, Hutchinson, May 22.
STEFFES
Senator Don, 88, St. Joseph, McPherson, May 24.

Sr. Charlene Huffington dies on May 6 at 93

Taught, ministered for a half-century in Japan
Sister Charlene (Marcella) Huffington, 93, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph in Wichita, died Sunday, May 6, in Marian Hall in Wichita.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Wednesday, May 9, in Mt. St. Mary’s Convent Resurrection Chapel.
She was born on March 21, 1925, in Wichita, the fifth daughter of Teresa C. Smith and Charles R. Huffington. Her four older sisters, Thelma, Edna, Frances and Charlotte and younger brother Robert preceded her in death. She is survived by 17 nieces and nephews.
Sister Charlene grew up on the family farm, first near Maize, then later moving to Schulte where her early education was at St. Peter Catholic School, followed by high school at the Cathedral High School in Wichita. After graduating from high school, she entered Mt. St. Mary’s Convent in September 1944 and was perpetually professed in 1950.
Sister Charlene prepared for her teaching career at Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita, Creighton University, and Notre Dame. She then taught in parish schools in the dioceses of Wichita and Dodge City.
In 1952, after volunteering as a missionary to Japan, she spent the first two years in Japan attending language school and the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. Except for four years when she returned to the U.S. to teach or enjoy some home visits, she spent over 50 years in Japan teaching children in Waifu and the St. Joseph Hospital for Handicapped in Kyoto. For a time her work also included being the Regional Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Japan.
In 2008 she returned from Japan and made her home at Mt. St. Mary’s Convent in Wichita. She busied herself with volunteer activities until her deteriorating health no longer permitted her to do so.
Memorial contributions in her name may be made to Dear Neighbor Ministries, Inc., or the Retirement Fund of the Sisters of St. Joseph, 3700 E. Lincoln, Wichita KS 67218.

Obituaries, May 18, 2018

SURVIL
Georgene M. Castelli, 84, Sacred Heart, Frontenac, March 17.
BABCOCK
Mary C., 99, St. Patrick, Parsons, March 21.
REMBLESKE
Marjorie Helen, 96, formerly of Wichita, March 21.
MEITNER
Gregory Garrett “Greg,” 73, St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita, April 24.
DICK
Danielle (Gorges), 32, St. John, Clonmel, April 25.
HUHNKE
Roger Mathew, 81, St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita, April 25.
DOCKERS
Eleanor Elizabeth, 77, St. Vincent de Paul, Andover, April 26.
SCHAEFER
Sylvester Frank “Ches,” 85, St. Jude, Wichita, April 26.
PENNER
Eileen, 88, Sacred Heart, Halstead, April 27.
WILSON
John R. “Jack,” 84, St. Joseph, Arma, April 27.
BUCHE
Carolyn Merle, 83, Our Lady of Lourdes, Pittsburg, April 28.
GORGES
Delmer C., 83, St. John, Clonmel, April 28.
MARTINEZ
Maria S., 89, St. Patrick, Parsons, April 28.
POLCZINSKI
Alfred R., 89, St. Margaret Mary, Wichita, April 29.
RUANE
Thomas M., 94, St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita, April 29.
SCHILD
Carolyn Kay, 74, St. James, Augusta, April 30.
GENGLER
Matthew Michael, 40, St. John, Iola, May 1.
RIEDEL
Robert E., 81, St. Catherine of Siena, Wichita, May 1.
CERNE
Kathleen Marie, 58, Sacred Heart, Frontenac, May 5.
HOELSCHER
Esther Marie, 84, St. Mary, Newton, May 5.
SIMON
Edwin H., 80, St. Leo, St. Leo, May 6.
GREENLEAF
Kathryn, 83, Blessed Sacrament, Wichita, May 8.
METCALF
Randy Carl, 61, St. Anthony, Wichita, May 8.
WALKER
Mary “Cathy,” 76, St. Michael, Mulvane, May 8.

The Most Holy Trinity

May 27: Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40, Romans 8:14-17, Matthew 28:16-20
By Fr. Tom Hoisington
The end and the beginning of human life are found in the Most Holy Trinity. We could reflect on this truth from the perspective of one’s own individual life, or that of all mankind, or that of all creation, or that of God himself.
The dogma of the Most Holy Trinity is the most profound and all-encompassing of all Christian beliefs. For that reason, this dogma can overwhelm disciples and preachers alike. But since a journey has to begin somewhere, one might as well begin reflecting on the Trinity in the light of one’s own self.
In the beginning, human life is radically marked by dependence. Not only is the human person dependent on others for the conception and nurturing of his life. Many of the facts of his life – such as physical traits, temperament, potential for intelligence – are inherited from others. As the old saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
By contrast, some would equate human maturity with the advance of one’s independence, as if the apple could pick itself up from the ground and move into the shade of an orange tree. Many define human maturity by one’s self-determination and personal autonomy. “No one’s going to tell ME what to do!” seems the creed of modern man.
In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court illustrated this creed, supporting the notion of legal abortion by making the following claim: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
Where can such logic end? Where can this creed possibly lead individuals? Where can this creed lead mankind as a whole, as well as the world in which we live? What hope can this creed afford?
If human maturity is defined by personal autonomy, then man’s only hope is man himself. For many unbelievers, this hope seems to bring joy. Unfortunately, the joy of such autonomy is incapable of ending in anything other than self-worship. Self-worship can only end in isolation. As a witness to the logic of this creed, the atheist Sartre professed that “Hell is other persons”.
Jesus Christ, however, reveals to us that Heaven is found amidst other persons. Indeed, God himself is other persons: three divine persons, to be exact. This is the saving truth that the church celebrates on this Sunday following Pentecost.
The end and the beginning of the human person is the life of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who always are together, act together, and love together, these three being one in him.
The church’s life here below consists in inviting more persons into this saving mystery. Her mission is to extend the love of the Father and the Son through this world, so as to draw those who live in this world into the life of Heaven. The love of the Father and the Son for each other is, in fact, the person of the Holy Spirit. We pray for his coming not only on Pentecost, but throughout all our days here below, so that the rule of his love would end for each of us in the joy that is eternal.

Pentecost Sunday

May 20: Acts 2:1-11, 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13, John 20:19-23
By Fr. Tom Hoisington
The historical event that the church celebrates this Sunday is described not in today’s Gospel passage, but in the first reading. In one sense, our focus here at the end of the Easter Season moves beyond the four Gospel accounts to the remainder of the New Testament.
The first four books of the New Testament present the life, death and Resurrection of Christ in his earthly body. The rest of the New Testament’s books present the life of the church as the Mystical Body of Christ. Christ continued to walk this earth after his Ascension to the Father’s right hand, but in a radically different way.
These 23 books – Acts of the Apostles, the 21 apostolic letters, and the Book of Revelation –offer a template or road map for us in the 21st century as we struggle to live, not as individual Christians, but as the conjoined members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Today’s feast of Pentecost, then, celebrates this transition from the earthly life of Christ to the Mystical Body of Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit alone makes the transition to this life possible.
The second reading this Sunday (or at least, the first of two options) focuses on the unique role of the Holy Spirit within the church. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is metaphorically called “the soul of the church”, in contrast to us human persons who are the body’s members.
Saint Paul uses three sets of contrasts to drive home the Holy Spirit’s unique role. Consider here just the second of these. While “there are different forms of service,” there is “the same Lord.” St. Paul here links the “service” of the church’s members with the one “Lord.” The church’s members “serve” their “Lord.” Perhaps this seems obvious. But it bears an important consequence for those who choose to practice stewardship as a way of life.
St. Paul is challenging those who trivialize the power of the Holy Spirit and his Lordship. In our day when egalitarianism and individualism are so highly prized, we minimize the notion of God as our Lord. We might more easily consider God the Father as a “lordly” figure. But we’re less inclined to consider Jesus our Lord, since we want in our day and time to consider him more as a friend than Lord.
Even less do Christians today consider the Holy Spirit as Lord. The Holy Spirit is often reduced to a gentle spirit – a breeze, really – who encourages us to follow our spiritual hunches. Without letting go of the Holy Spirit’s authentic roles of comforter and advocate, we need to recognize the Holy Spirit as our Lord. Christian service serves the Holy Spirit, and aims towards the establishment of his rule.
In the Nicene Creed we profess the Holy Spirit to be “the Lord, the giver of life”. As Christians, we serve the Holy Spirit who is our Lord. We serve him so that his kingdom of life – that proceeds from the Father and the Son – will rule in our world, so as to bring many through sin and death into the everlasting life of the Trinity.
The church is God’s means to establish the rule of the Holy Spirit. The earthly purpose of the Holy Spirit’s varied gifts, service and workings is proclaimed in the refrain of Pentecost’s Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”